I think my favourite show this anime season is SSSS.Gridman. It’s an animated version of a tokusatsu show — an early 90s, internet-themed “giant hero” show. Nick Creamer’s review captures what I like best about it:

Between its encroaching powerlines, its vast grey skies, and its shadowed school halls, there is a sense of solemnity and quiet alienation to this place that makes all of its fantastical drama feel strangely real.

The opening scene of the 2015 pilot short encapsulates it well.

A 75% stake in Aardman Studios is being transferred to employee ownership. This will be through an employee ownership trust that holds the shares in perpetuity for the benefit of all employees.

Everyone who works for the company (including freelancers) for at least 3 months in a financial year will be entitled to a dividend payment, and the workers will participate in management decisions through a representative council.

I wondered where the money came from to buy out the current owners’ share, and it seems the company has been building up cash reserves over years to allow this to happen — it’s a wonderful recognition of the company’s workforce, and prevents it being bought and destroyed by huge conglomerates. Excellent!

Perhaps this carpenter is a drunken master?

China’s netizens are all in a twitter over the account of a carpenter who was commissioned to make a cinnabar red high-backed chair with the finials at the top to be “in the shape of dragons’ heads” (chéng lóngtóu 成龍頭). Unfortunately, he misinterpreted the directions to mean “[in the shape of] Jackie Chan’s head” (“Chénglóng tóu 成龍頭”).

I’m having fun with Holedown, on Virginia’s recommendation. The gameplay is a bit like a mix of Breakout, Tetris, and Orbital’s precision mode. (Orbital remains the best local two-player iPad game, even five years after its release.)

When politicians congratulated themselves for criticising Fraser Anning, the press gallery fawned over them. Ruby Hamad calls bullshit:

And, suddenly, racism becomes a white people’s issue again; something to be solved by merely denouncing the most genocidal of racist intentions, without having to actually do anything about the societal conditions that create space for such statements and policies. And so, we are treated to the spectacle of political figures such as Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull assuming the role of Good Cop in contrast with Anning and Katter’s Bad Cop.

It is an absurd state of affairs that Hanson – herself castigated by George “people have a right to be bigots” Brandis – now gets to occupy a moral high ground by denouncing Anning’s “appalling” comments. Likewise Turnbull, who still presides over those refugee torture camps where children are wasting away even as I write this, and who himself not so long ago scolded the Muslim population of western Sydney for its high “No” votes in the laughable postal survey that his government foisted on us after years of dragging its feet on marriage equality, but who now gets to claim pride in Australia’s “successful” multiculturalism.

What a sight to behold as these politicians fall over themselves to pass the most basic of moral tests. In these endless culture wars, race is a cherished weapon, each side playing to its base, trading barbs in parliament and in the media, each presenting themselves as the real benefactor of the baffled “coloureds” consigned to the sidelines. But here is the thing about the good cop/bad cop trope – at the end of the day, they are all cops.

Mastodon is a thing now, and I like its focus on serving users instead of advertisers, and I hope that soon we’re all tooting instead of tweeting.

I watched the first episode of Disenchantment. Pretty good, but the high point of Groening’s career remains writing the foreword to First Dog’s book.

I also watched the first episode of Norsemen. It’s a funny parody of Vikings, featuring a bunch of funny people you’ll recognise from Lillyhammer.

Tim Dunlop:

Anning, like a lot of people who espouse this sort of rot, would no doubt tell you how much he loves Australia, but I think the opposite is true.

People like Anning don’t love Australia. They hate it.

What they actually love is White Australia, in all its dated, discredited irrelevance.

Actually existing, multicultural Australia, where half the population was either born overseas or has at least one parent who was, fills people like Anning with hate and disgust and they want to see it destroyed.

We need to get this through our heads: those who share Anning’s worldview are not patriots, they are traitors to the place Australia actually is. We are multicultural all the way down and we will remain that way unless…unless what?

It is surely no accident that Anning evoked the notion of a ‘final solution’ in his speech.

Read the whole thing.

When it popped up as a suggestion on Netflix, we gave A Very Secret Service a go, and it turns out to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages. Bureaucracy porn (expense claims! receipts! rubber stamps!) with a very dry sense of humour.

At the tail end of an episode of Motherfoclóir, Éimear Duffy was asked to nominate a film to remake with all of the cast but one replaced by Muppets:

This one’s tough. I want to come up with something mad obscure, and I really want to say, like, Fatal Deviation… Filmed in 1998 in Trim, it is Ireland’s first and probably only full-length martial arts film, and it’s all up on YouTube. I would highly recommend you all go watch it because it is the most iconic thing that I have ever watched in my entire life.

Sure enough, Fatal Deviation is available on YouTube and it is everything you imagine. (The human actor Éimear would keep from the original would be Boyzone’s Mikey Graham.)

I’ve been following Hank Cheng on Instagram for a while — his grimy architectural dioramas are a marvel. Last week the ABC profiled Joshua Smith, an Adelaide artist doing similar work, faithfully recreating and preserving Australian urban decay in miniature. Here is his Insta.


A Tokyo medical school has apologised after an internal investigation confirmed it altered entrance exam scores for more than a decade to limit the number of female students and ensure more men became doctors.

Tokyo Medical University manipulated all entrance exam results starting in 2006 or even earlier, according to findings released by lawyers involved in the investigation, confirming recent reports in Japanese media. …

The investigation found that in this year’s entrance exams the school reduced all applicants’ first-stage test scores by 20% and then added at least 20 points for male applicants, except those who had previously failed the test at least four times. It said similar manipulations had occurred for years because the school wanted fewer female doctors since it anticipated they would shorten or halt their careers after becoming mothers.

This policy killed people:

[Researchers] analyzed two decades of records from Florida emergency rooms, including every patient who had been admitted with a heart attack from 1991 to 2010. They showed that women are more likely to die when treated by male doctors, compared to either men treated by male doctors or women treated by female doctors.

“These results suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists: Most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients,” the team writes.

… The male doctors in their study were better at treating women with heart attacks when they had more experience treating such patients—and especially when they worked in hospitals with more female doctors. … [T]he study suggests that when the proportion of female physicians in an emergency department rises by 5 percent, the survival rates of the women treated there rise by 0.4 percentage points.

The Dragon’s Tomb is a series of parody instructional videos for various board games — and not only does he poke fun at the games, but he creates new, viable games using the components of the originals. Take a look at Cards Against Humanity and Carcassonne (or “carcass own”) to see what I mean.

For The Win: a promising new podcast about “the people, strategy and campaigns that changed Australia forever”.

All of the good things you have heard about Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (transcript) are correct. It is very funny, very moving, and very challenging. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I do take issue with one point Gadsby makes in her conclusion. She builds the show around the relief theory of humour — that jokes work by building tension and then offering a release. And she notes that her show has used anger to build that tension:

The only way I can tell my truth and put tension in the room is with anger. And I am angry, and I believe I’ve got every right to be angry! But what I don’t have a right to do is to spread anger. I don’t. Because anger, much like laughter, can connect a room full of strangers like nothing else. But anger, even if it’s connected to laughter, will not relieve tension. Because anger is a tension. It is a toxic, infectious tension. And it knows no other purpose than to spread blind hatred, and I want no part of it.

I don’t think she’s right about this. Anger is tension, but it can have other purposes. There are different ways to relieve that tension.

Where anger is caused by a fundamental injustice, any release that fails to address that injustice will be ineffective, and will only cause more anger (or worse, despair). But anger that is relieved by something constructive, something that improves the world and removes the cause of the anger, is righteous anger.

Mahtma Ghandi expressed this powerfully in a speech to the Indian National Congress in 1920:

I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.

Paradoxically, Gadsby’s masterful performance in Nanette is an example of such powerful, controlled anger. She gradually builds empathetic anger in her audience, and then demands they take action to relieve that tension.

Yes, there is the immediate release of the laughter — but she demands longer-term action to address discrimination, to address male violence, to address the lack of diversity in the stories we hear in art and popular culture.

Time will tell whether her call to action will move the world. But it wouldn’t stand a chance if she hadn’t been willing to spread her anger, and I’m glad she had the courage and the strength to do so.

The Secret History of Marxist Alien Hunters:

Trotsky’s followers declared a Fourth International that continued to push for the communist future envisioned by the early Bolsheviks. The handful of Ufologists among them took Tsiokolvsky’s assessment that “Time must pass until the average level of humankind’s development is sufficient for nonearthly dwellers to visit us” as a messianic prediction. The aliens, like communism, linger in the air, waiting for us to make the world ready for them.

I missed this back in December, but the creator of Damo and Darren of Ciggy Butt Brain fame had a very short cartoon series on ABC: Koala Man. (Superheroes with no powers is a favourite genre of mine.)

Lorin Clarke has written a radio play, The Fitzroy Diaries, that paints a wonderful picture of her neighbourhood. It’s airing daily on Radio National, or you can skip ahead and download the whole series now.

Thanks to a heatwave in Ireland, an ancient henge structure has been revealed by soil drying out at different rates:

“In the late Neolithic, people would have built this henge out of timber,” he says. Imagine massive posts — possibly whole tree trunks — planted in pits and postholes.

“Over time, when the monument fell out of use, the wood all rots away and the holes kind of fill up with organic material,” he said. “But they leave a sort of a fingerprint, or a footprint.” Archaeologists can see it in soil samples. And, in a drought, you can see the impact on crops.

“Those filled-in holes retain a slight amount more moisture than the surrounding soil,” Murphy says. “The crop that is growing out of those features has a very small advantage in terms of additional water and it’s very slightly healthier.”

Victor Mari was walking in Hamburg when he saw a long word on a building:

“Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät”.

My feet were glued to the ground. I just looked up at that big, long word and pondered. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself. “How would we say that in English?”

“‘Law Faculty’ or ‘Faculty of Law.'”

That made me even more unwilling to move on.

For the next few minutes I just stood there processing in my mind the difference between “Law Faculty” and “Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät”. Of course, one could also say “Juristische Fakultät” or “Recht Fakultät” in German, but here at the University of Hamburg, they chose to say “Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät”. I kept thinking to myself, “What are the epistemological implications of saying it that way? How are they conceiving [of] law when they use such a big, complicated word? And how are we understanding jurisprudence when we use such a tiny word as ‘law’?”

Ben Raue has started The Tally Room podcast to complement his excellent website. Based on the first episode, it seems like it will fill a niche for calm and non-partisan discussion of electoral politics.

Paperbark is a pleasant iOS game about a wombat, and it captures the Australian bush perfectly.

How the Enlightenment ends:

If AI learns exponentially faster than humans, we must expect it to accelerate, also exponentially, the trial-and-error process by which human decisions are generally made: to make mistakes faster and of greater magnitude than humans do. It may be impossible to temper those mistakes, as researchers in AI often suggest, by including in a program caveats requiring “ethical” or “reasonable” outcomes. Entire academic disciplines have arisen out of humanity’s inability to agree upon how to define these terms. Should AI therefore become their arbiter?

Hanzi is an interesting documentary about Chinese typeface design. Beautiful. (Watch it free on Kanopy.)

I’m reading Richard Denniss’s Quarterly Essay on what comes after the failure of neoliberalism, and I thought this was worth sharing:

Change is not just possible, it can be invigorating. Australians aren’t suffering “reform fatigue,” they are suffering “boring reform fatigue.” If they are given interesting political questions to debate, there is no reason to believe they won’t be interested in politics again.

oBike is retreating from Melbourne. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, they were typical of the startup culture that thinks an app gives them licence to ignore regulations and social norms; on the other hand, the way the bikes were trashed does not reflect well on Melbourne.

A map of the places Anthony Bourdain visited on his TV shows.

I can’t get my thoughts in order to write something worthy of the man, so I will leave it to the (newly-unionised) New Yorker to sum up what was best about him:

As “Parts Unknown” has evolved, it has become less preoccupied with food and more concerned with the sociology and geopolitics of the places Bourdain visits. Lydia Tenaglia calls the show an “anthropological enterprise.” Increasingly, Chris Collins told me, the mandate is: “Don’t tell me what you ate. Tell me who you ate with.” Bourdain, in turn, has pushed for less footage of him eating and more “B roll” of daily life in the countries he visits. It has become a mantra for him, Collins said: “More ‘B,’ less me.”

Since visiting Beirut, Bourdain has gone on to Libya, Gaza, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeking to capture how people go about their daily lives amid violent conflict. To viewers who complain that the show has become too focussed on politics, Bourdain responds that food is politics: most cuisines reflect an amalgamation of influences and tell a story of migration and conquest, each flavor representing a sedimentary layer of history.

For Bourdain, food was the foot-in-the-door to learn (and teach) about people of all walks of life and in every corner of the world.

This year is the centenary of the NSW Women’s Legal Status Act 1918, and it was commemorated by Justice Virginia Bell in an excellent speech to the Forbes Society for Australian Legal History.

She gives a thorough review of the slow and stuttering move towards formal legal equality for women in the UK and Australia. Despite having a broad brushstrokes understanding of this history, it was nevertheless shocking to be reminded how recently the law enshrined opinions like these:

The provisions of legislation stating that in the Municipal Corporation Acts, “words importing the masculine gender shall include females for all purposes connected with the right to vote at the election of councillors” was held [in 1872] not to confer a right on married women to vote in municipal elections. The Court accepted Mr Farrer Herschell’s (later Lord Chancellor Herschell) economical submission that “[a] married woman is not a person in the eye of the law. She is not sui juris”.

I was pleased to see that her Honour has not, since her rise to the highest bench, abandoned her critical perspective. She notes that formal equality did not immediately create actual equality:

The social and economic pressures which largely kept women in the home were not about to give way in the face of a change to their status at law.

Don’t put excessive faith in the legal system. It is a tool, but only one tool, to organise society for the benefit of the people. Law reform is important only to the extent that it creates social and economic equality in people’s day-to-day lives.

Peter Wells has a new column about podcasts in the Fairfax papers. In the first instalment, he recommends a short, daily ABC current affairs podcast called The Signal. It’s good.

Inside Australia’s first body farm:

The mass grave marked with pink tape covers an area of about 2 square metres, and has sunk a few inches as the bodies have decomposed. “Once bodies become skeletonised, the bones fall apart and … mingle,” Forbes explains. “The challenge is to identify the victims and make sure that you are dealing with the right bones.”

The data from this grave will be used in relation to war crimes. Forensic archaeologists will see if any useful evidence can be exhumed with the bodies, such as footprints near the burial or marks on items of clothing. Researchers also look for evidence pertaining to the weapon causing death. “We don’t actually shoot the body,” Forbes clarifies, explaining that the NSW Police Force ballistics team shot bullets through the clothing before placing it on the donors.

They currently have 46 bodies on the site, with over 500 on the waiting list.

The Irish Times explained why Ireland’s Constitution had to change:

The Constitution is no place for abortion. That was clear in 1983 and it is even clearer now. The Eighth Amendment describes a world that never existed – a place of moral absolutism, religious certainty, good and evil, black and white – and locks us into that illusion in perpetuity. To remove it is merely to reflect the world we live in: a contingent, uncertain place, full of messiness and ambiguity, where the distances between happiness and despair, public joy and private anguish, are agonisingly small.

With a Yes vote, we can reject a worldview that relegates a woman’s bodily autonomy below the right of the State to tell her it knows best. We can bring an end to the secrecy and the shame. And we can embrace a more generous idea of the State itself.

And the Irish people delivered a resounding, emphatic Yes.

In March, a self-driving Uber car killed a pedestrian. The US National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the incident is horrifying.

As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path.

So the system didn’t know what to do. Not to worry, the Volvo’s emergency braking system would kick in, right?

The vehicle was a modified Volvo XC90 SUV. That vehicle comes with emergency braking capabilities, but Uber automatically disabled these capabilities while its software was active.

Oh. Well, surely Uber’s own software would have an emergency system?

At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision.

Phew! But wait…

According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action.

Huh. Well, they’re testing, so I guess it makes sense that the operator would be concentrating on the road, ready to intervene.

The operator is responsible for monitoring diagnostic messages that appear on an interface in the center stack of the vehicle dash and tagging events of interest for subsequent review.


The system is not designed to alert the operator.

This is absolutely horrifying. The way this system was designed, it was inevitable that Uber would kill someone. Whoever is responsible for these decisions needs to be tried for manslaughter.

Sigh. “Two towns are 48kms apart. One has twice as much tooth decay.” You’ll never guess which town refuses to fluoridate its water… and for crank conspiracy theory reasons that make PJ O’Rourke’s satirical flowchart look reasonable.

Well, that’s that:

After completing what they say is the first examination of Adolf Hitler’s remains since World War II, a team of researchers has announced that the Nazi leader most definitely died in Berlin in 1945 and, therefore, cannot possibly still be alive on the moon.

The study was no easy feat. Over the past 73 years, Hitler’s presumed corpse has been set on fire, secretly buried, dug up by the Soviets, hidden by the KGB and finally ordered destroyed.

… [L]ast year, a team of French researchers persuaded the Russian government to let them inspect the last two bits of Hitler known to exist: a bullet-shot chunk of skull and a set of frankly disgusting teeth.

They compared these fragments with war-era autopsy records and concluded that, yep, those are definitely Hitler’s teeth.

Tokyo High Court upholds ruling calling city of Saitama’s refusal to publish pacifist haiku ‘unfair’:

The Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld a district court ruling that called “unfair” the city of Saitama’s refusal to publish a haiku which referred to the Constitution and carried a pacifist message in its local newsletter.

The high court ordered the city to pay ¥5,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff’s haiku, which translates to “Under rainy-season skies/ ‘Protect Article 9’/ Female demonstrators cry out” (“Tsuyuzora ni/ ‘Kyujo mamore’ no/ Josei demo“), was submitted by a local haiku club in June 2014 to the Mihashi community center in Saitama for publication in the center’s monthly newsletter.

Article 9 is the pacifist clause of the Japanese constitution. This is the offensive poem, which Saitama is still refusing to publish: 梅雨空に「九条守れ」の女性デモ

Divorce on demand risks becoming law if a woman succeeds in escaping her “loveless” marriage, the [UK] Supreme Court has heard.

Tini Owens, 68, has been barred from divorcing her husband Hugh, 80, because his behaviour was not sufficiently bad to meet the requirements of the law.

I’m genuinely shocked to learn that no-fault divorce is not (yet?) the law in the UK. Why would you want to keep people trapped in a miserable relationship?

Yesterday, the DPP made the very rare decision to abandon the prosecution of a serious crime, before it had even finished calling evidence at the committal hearing. I had been following the case closely, but it still took me by surprise.

I was less surprised by the strongly-worded press conference given by the defendants’ lawyer, Peter Gordon, on the steps of the Magistrates’ Court. Here’s why I think his outrage is justified.

In April 2013, the CFMEU was locked in a bitter dispute with Grocon over safety issues — especially the need for independent health and safety representatives on dangerous construction sites. Part of that campaign involved organising a boycott of Grocon and its concrete supplier Boral.

It’s against that backdrop that Boral contacted the CFMEU and arranged a meeting with the union’s secretary, John Setka, and assistant secretary, Shaun Reardon. That meeting took place in April 2013.

More than a year later, Boral’s CEO, Mike Kane, wrote to Dyson Heydon’s anti-union royal commission (TURC) to “respectfully suggest” Setka be referred to the police for possible blackmail charges.

Kane also complained that he thought a Supreme Court case against the union had been too slow, and Heydon fawningly interjected to lead more evidence from him about it. “You’re making powerful points,” said Heydon, concluding:

If anyone within Boral does have ideas for the future regulation of institutions so as to avoid this happening in the future, we’d be interested in seeing that.

Heydon dutifully recommended blackmail charges, and also called for reform of Supreme Court processes to avoid the delay Boral had complained about.

The court subsequently established a new Employment and Industrial List, which hears anti-union cases and is headed by a judge who formerly represented Grocon in its high profile case against the CFMEU’s safety protest.

Meanwhile, Boral sued the CFMEU, with Kane claiming that its blockade cost the company $28 million. The more credulous journalists — such as the Herald Sun’s Stephen Drill — took this claim at face value.

Ironically, given Boral’s complaints about delays in the Supreme Court, it was ordered to pay part of the union’s costs after causing a six week delay by changing its case on the ninth day of the trial, after ten witnesses had already been heard. And despite being allowed to move the goal posts during the match, Boral settled for just $4 million in damages, a long way short of Kane’s fantasy.

But that was just one prong of Boral’s attack. It had also been working closely with the ACCC to have the union sued by the government for exactly the same blockade (despite the Boral settlement), as well as continuing a campaign in the media for criminal charges based on the April 2013 meeting.

The usual suspects in the press were (over-)excited by that prospect. In August, Stephen Drill published a report, including confirmation by eyewitnesses, about a Taskforce Heracles police raid in the CFMEU office — an exciting scoop but, unfortunately for Drill, completely false.

But in December 2015, two and a half years after the meeting, Setka and Reardon were arrested in front of their families and charged with blackmail.

They weren’t accused of threatening violence. They weren’t accused of seeking personal gain. They were accused of organising a boycott of building industry employers over an industrial issue — the appointment of health and safety representatives.

This was a big deal. It is very unusual for a purely industrial dispute to be treated as a criminal matter. In one of the many court hearings since then, Justice Weinberg (himself a former Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions) tried in vain to identify a precedent for blackmail charges in this context:

Perhaps they are a little experimental. An attempt to see how far the reach of the criminal law can go in this area.

Leading industrial law professor Andrew Stewart observed:

As long as you are not beating someone up or damaging property, criminal law hasn’t really had much of a role to play at all. If these guys are found guilty, and if the evidence does not show they were doing this for personal gain, that they were acting in the course of an industrial campaign, it sets a massive precedent and it’s just hard for me to see where the stopping point is.

Boral seemed unconcerned that its own behaviour might be criminal under this new expansive approach — for example, by threatening to sack employees if they don’t hold a vote to remove conditions from their lawfully made EBA.

For now, their campaign to attack the CFMEU by undermining the prevailing legal norms was bearing fruit.

But the thing about criminal law is that it adheres to strict rules of procedure and evidence, developed over centuries to protect fairness to the accused — a far cry from trial by media or the loose approach of Heydon’s TURC witch hunt.

Even before the committal hearing, the CFMEU’s lawyers began pulling on the threads that would see the case collapse.

For instance, Taskforce Heracles had obtained warrants for phone intercepts on Setka and Reardon, but when Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg reviewed the affidavits used to obtain the warrants, he made the unusual decision to release them to the defence due to his concerns about the process.

When approving warrants, judges and AAT members are required to consider the interference with privacy and the gravity of the offences being investigated.

The first affidavit made a single reference to litigation brought by Boral and made no reference to privacy.

The magistrate said a telephone intercept could reasonably be expected to capture conversations between Setka and Reardon and their lawyers and other parties as well as “sensitive and confidential information”.

“Those are all matters that should have been placed before the tribunal members having regard to privacy.”

The implication here is that the police might have misled the AAT by omission, downplaying the fact they would be eavesdropping on privileged conversations between the accused and their lawyers.

(This parallels another case: an earlier TURC criminal case against the ACT branch of the CFMEU saw a warrant thrown out because of a “failure to disclose fully the circumstances that were required to be disclosed”. That case was a similar attempt to apply criminal blackmail charges to an industrial demand. That case also spectacularly collapsed.)

On the morning of the first day of the hearing, the union was also given access to a raft of documents the ACCC tried to keep secret. Rozenscwajg said their affidavit was weak and the documents showed a “cooperative relationship” the defence had a right to explore. The documents included emails between DLA Piper (lawyers for the ACCC) and Freehills (lawyers for Boral), and crucially, notebooks and draft versions of the Boral witnesses’ statements.

And when those witnesses took the stand, the wheels came off the prosecution case. As The Age’s Nick McKenzie put it:

It is inexplicable that no one who pushed for blackmail charges to be laid against Setka and Reardon applied the sort of blow-torch scrutiny to the central witnesses that they would inevitably face when the case reached a committal hearing.

So it’s hard not to wonder if a desire to bag the biggest union scalps in the country blinkered the judgment of those who sought to criminalise what the union movement always insisted was industrial conduct.

Their claims were never challenged by Heydon or his bumbling counsel assisting, but this was a different arena.

The two key witnesses were Paul Dalton, who arranged the 23 April meeting, and Peter Head, who had attended as a witness.

Their evidence did not seem to square up with the allegation that a threat to cause millions of dollars of damage was being made:

Peter Head told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court union bosses John Setka and Shaun Reardon spoke passionately about their concerns for the safety of workers at builder Grocon’s city sites during the meeting.

“It was calm, it was pleasant. There was no overt aggression but certainly passion for the cause,” he said.

Dalton was similarly unfazed at the time of the meeting, and “repeatedly said he did not feel as though he had been threatened during the meeting, but later accepted he had been.”

He was so unconcerned by what had happened that he (perhaps criminally) destroyed his original notes of the meeting on the same day, after being told by Boral’s in-house lawyer they “did not contain any evidence” and were “irrelevant”.

In fairness, they might have been right, as Dalton “conceded his notes do not characterise his conversation with Mr Setka as being of a threatening nature.”

Other documentary evidence at the time suggests there was no perceived threat. Dalton’s notebook referred to briefing documents being sent to Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz — but those briefings don’t refer to any alleged blackmail, and neither politician mentioned any such allegation either.

(Dalton’s credibility surely took a hit here, as he claimed he “can’t recall” whether Abbott or Abetz were “militant about the CFMEU”… yeah, right.)

It was only later, when Boral was contemplating its approach to TURC, that the meeting was retrospectively deemed threatening. And when the ACCC failed in its bid to block draft witness statements being released, the defence team was given a window into Boral’s back-room operations in preparation for TURC.

At TURC, the similarity between the men’s statements was taken as a virtue. Counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, wrote “Their accounts are consistent. Thus they corroborate each other.” But he had not questioned whether the similarities came as a result of collusion rather than corroboration.

And he had not questioned to what extent their statements — prepared more than a year after the event — had been massaged. There was certainly plenty of opportunity, as nearly 60 draft witness statements were prepared by Freehills:

The court heard one Boral executive witness statement was changed 18 times while the union said another was changed 41 times.

A key phrase, “cut off the supply lines”, alleged to be uttered by the union officials was not in the executives’ original notes and was only included in statements a year later, the CFMEU said.

A detailed comparison of the statements at various stages of preparation also threw up curious similarities. For instance:

Mr Head maintained the recollections in his first draft were his own, made without reference to Mr Dalton’s notes.

And yet:

His first draft contained several almost identical quotes to those noted in Mr Dalton’s final statement.

The unorthodox process of drafting these witness statements was of such concern that after the DPP formally dropped the charges, Magistrate Rozencwajg commented:

It highlights [that] how police take statements is far more conducive to getting the facts as witnesses see them.

This just underscores that the blackmail case was never a real police prosecution — it was driven by Boral and its creative, anti-union lawyers, and given a push along by a creative, anti-union royal commission.

And they failed.

This time.

This is not the end of the matter. This was not the first attempt to bring a blackmail case against a union official making an industrial demand, and it won’t be the last. Professor Andrew Stewart warns:

Comments in the royal commission report and the initiation of this prosecution have now placed a very large question mark over the role of criminal law in relation to industrial action and union activities. Today’s decision has done nothing to resolve that.

They won’t stop attacking workers who stand up for themselves. We need to join our unions, turf out anti-union governments, change the rules to put a fair industrial relations system beyond doubt, and stand in solidarity when one of our comrades is attacked

Touch one, touch all.

You’ve probably already seen this HD footage of 1992 Tokyo; it’s been doing the rounds. I finally took the time to watch it today and I was struck by how much the framing, the palette, and even the soundtrack reminded me of 1993’s Patlabor 2: The Movie (without the tanks and mechs, obviously).

In which Greg Jericho proposes to answer the question: is Scott Morrison dumber than a hamster?

Firstly in 2016, Scott Morrison took what was a pretty easy win on company tax cuts for small businesses and turned it into a fight on the ALP’s terms by including an unfunded and uncosted but clearly expensive proposal for tax cuts to begin eight years later for companies with a turnover above $1bn.

It allowed the ALP to turn the tax debate into one about equality and fairness, and those large business tax cuts remain stuck in the Senate.

This time around we have a series of income tax cuts — the first of which are an easy sell for low- and middle-income earners — but which Morrison has yet again combined with an unfunded and uncosted but clearly expensive proposal to begin in seven years that would see people earning between $41,000 and $200,000 paying the same marginal tax rate.

In a stroke it once again allowed the ALP to shift the tax debate onto its favoured turf of equality and fairness and immediately made it more difficult to get the legislation passed through the Senate.

Is anyone actually advising the government?